Vegans and Tooth Decay

A Sutton Coldfield Dentist Examines a Possible Link

It is thought that there is a small but steadily growing number of vegans in the UK. The reasons for this dietary choice vary; in some cases it is due to concerns about animal welfare whilst for others, it is for health reasons.

There have been a few reports linking this diet with an increase in tooth decay so, given the increasing number, we felt that this was something worth taking a look at.

To be clear, a vegan diet is one that avoids all animal based products altogether. Whilst there is some debate about whether honey should be included in this category, for many vegans it is also excluded.

Health Concerns

If we focus largely on those who eschew animal products for health reasons, it is not unreasonable that we can presume that they also live a relatively healthy lifestyle and will, quite naturally, take good care of their teeth too. Even here though, a problem may arise as, due to EU rules, there is likely to be some degree of animal testing on toothpastes and mouthwashes along the way, causing many vegans to avoid these products.

Whilst there are many ‘natural’ toothpastes available which do not have to be involved in animal testing, a great many of these also avoid incorporating fluoride. The use of fluoride is a bone of contention amongst the healthy community with many claiming that it is unnecessary.  The facts though, from a dental perspective, is that fluoride is important in strengthening the enamel of the teeth and, in our opinion, should be used in order to avoid dental decay.

Natural Sugars

This is not the place to go into the merits of a vegan diet or otherwise, other than to say that it is generally accepted, that provided sufficient care is taken, all the necessary nutrients can be gained from a vegan diet. So, why then does it appear that vegans are more likely to suffer from tooth decay than others?

One factor that the reports have found is, ironically, a healthy one. Many vegans have a higher intake of fruit than carnivores and consume a large amount of citric fruits such as oranges. Whilst these are a good source of vitamin C, they also contain two substances that can be devastating for teeth and these are citric acid and sugar. Both of these two factors will cause erosion of the tooth enamel if left. Combine this with the fluoride (or lack of) factor and it is not hard to see why vegans may suffer from more decay than others.

Many vegans, though not all, also eat a significant portion of their food raw. Whilst this almost certainly increases the nutritional intake it may also, over a period of time, put stress on the teeth as clearly some of the food stuffs are a lot harder than when cooked.

Oral Health Care

Whilst we advise everyone, and not just vegans, to use a fluoride based toothpaste and to clean their teeth after eating sugary foods, even natural sugars, we also have to stress the importance of seeing a dentist and hygienist on a regular basis so that any treatment can be given before the problem becomes serious (and probably painful).

We are open from Monday to Friday and also Saturday mornings at our Sutton Coldfield practice and can be contacted on 0121 323 4492.